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When Buying Smart, Size Does Matter

During my search, I went on property tours where I saw exclusively 3 bedroom condos. None of them did it for me.

Many 3 bedroom apartments, especially in large multi-unit condos, have layouts featuring two normal proportioned rooms and then a third, ugly duckling of a bedroom.

This ugly duckling can often be identified by its odd layout, weird proportions, lack of storage/light or being thinly divided from the living room.

Typical Floorplan.

Property developers have deployed layouts like this, especially when targeting mid-market domestic buyers. The third-bedroom / tatami room layout is especially common, as it fits an older Japanese lifestyle and would have been seen as a plus point by its original owners.

After several unproductive tours, I realized I need to approach this differently. I knew I needed at least 70 sqm meters of space and thus asked my agent to include minimum 70 square meter 2 bedrooms in the search. My thinking was that if there was enough space and the layout was just right, I could add another bedroom to a large 2 bedroom.

Lo and behold more options opened up and my property tours started to be much more enjoyable. Rather than thinking I had to settle for something, I began having hope that I could find the best place for me, albeit maybe requiring more work then I originally intended.

2 Bedroom Candidate Property.

In the end I found a property that fit the bill without requiring renovation but the decision to buy something that needed renovation or not could have gone either way. One thing was for certain; the experience became much more positive the more options I was looking at.

Additional thoughts


  • Just as this works for people looking to upsize, the reverse can apply for investors or owners looking to downsize – search for a 3 bedroom apartment and see what it would look like with a wall taken out.

  • When exploring these options, be sure to check that the building manager, owner`s association rules are being followed as there are limits on what can and can’t be renovated.

  • There is a growing tendency to work from home, even amongst younger Japanese professionals. Consider how a home office space could be used to your benefit.

  • When making a room renovation, remember how natural light comes into your property. If a new or adjusted wall blocks light then you are putting off the next buyer.
    Editor’s Note: Robin is the Marketing Manager for Housing Japan. In addition to having to deal with being a non-broker in a brokerage, he recently bought a 3-bedroom home in an area not covered by Housing Japan; the experience of which inspired this article.